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Carnation

( Originally Published 1933 )



DIANTHUS CARYOPHYLLUS, L.

Caryophyllaceae Perennial

This carnation is native to South Europe and India and is said by a German writer to be "The father of the garden pink." It has been difficult to obtain the seeds, and now I have grown it the plant seems to vary from Bailey's and other descriptions, so I checked up by having a herbarium specimen with which to compare it.

The plant is smooth and bushy, eighteen inches or more tall, with many leaves, leafier than Dianthus plumarius, and the stems rise up straighter, making a handsome subject for the border.

Root. The root is rather woody and branched, with many fibers.

Stem. The stems are angled, have prominent nodes, are gray-green with a bloom on them, as on the leaves, and rise to two feet and more.

Leaf. In the herbarium specimen the long, narrow linear leaves terminated in an obtuse end; in the garden now and then there is a leaf with an obtuse tip, the rest being pointed. In the garden the leaves are numerous, linear, channeled, acute, entire, and glaucous. The mid-rib is prominent on the under side. At the base they are three and one-half inches long, and grow shorter as they ascend the stem. They are in opposite pairs along the stem but form clusters at the base.

Flower. The flowers bloom in late June and early July when the Dianthus plumarius is over. They are solitary on their own stems, five or more rising from a principal stem. The four short bracts outside the calyx come to a sharp point. The calyx is tubular, terminating in five sharply pointed tips. The corolla is of five broad, very dark red petals said to be sometimes flesh-colored. They are irregularly fringed, sometimes overlapping, and the claws are white, not bearded. The stamens, ten in number, are white, tipped red, and curve out at the tips to surround the ovary which is shaped like a bright green top and has a two-parted style beginning rose and terminating deep scarlet, each half curving out beyond the calyx like a graceful flourish to the letter V. The flowers are sweetly and spicily fragrant with a permeating quality.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

This is one of the flowers called "gilliflower" stock, Matthiola incana, and wallflower being others.

At Bologna the carnation is associated with the cult of Saint Peter, and the 29th of June is Carnation Day.

This carnation was listed in Prince's catalogues in 1790, and Bartram had it in 1814. Stearns' "The American Herbal" speaks of clove gilliflowers.

USES

Perfume. Piesse and Poucher, two writers on perfumes, both say the carnation is not used in perfumery but that a synthetic reproduction of its scent bears the name "carnation."

Food. Formerly a syrup was made from the flowers and they were conserved in sugar, pickled, and used to flavor wine and vinegar. The petals were picked out of their calyces, and the white heels cut off. Hill, in "Useful Family Herbal," 1770, says a tea was made of them which was a "cordial and good for disorders of the head," as follows : Over three pounds of flowers, as prepared above, five pounds of boiling water were poured. This was allowed to stand twelve hours and then the clear liquor strained off without pressing, and dissolved in two pounds of the finest sugar to every pint of liquid.

CULTURE

These plants come readily from seed sown in June or July in cold frames. At Foxden they are transplanted to the garden the following spring because I find so many carnations die out during the winter, but elsewhere they could no doubt be safely placed in their permanent positions in the fall. This dianthus will not flower the first year even if it is started in the greenhouse in January. It can be increased from cuttings and is perfectly hardy out-of-doors. Several plants died out in the rock garden with me, but liked the soil in the border.



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